This week's matchup does not allow the readers to respond with what they said about last week's game against the Cleveland Browns, where many thought all the Baltimore Ravens needed to do was just show up. While that might have ended up true last week, it certainly won't be enough to beat the Patriots in their home crib this Sunday.
However, if the Ravens team that played last week shows up for this week's game and plays the same way, the Ravens can absolutely leave Gillette Stadium with an impressive victory and make a major statement about their legitimate claim as one of the best teams in the NFL so far this year.
(More on "How To Beat The New England Patriots" after the 'Jump')
Both teams are highly rated and thought to be legitimate playoff contenders this year after finishing 11-5 in the 2008 regular season, although the Pats missed out on the post season. Remember, these are the New England Patriots that went 16-0 in the regular season only two years ago. However, this is not the same Patriots squad that is playing now as a lot has transpired in their ranks that have left a dent their armor this year. QB Tom Brady is back after missing nearly all of the 2009 season with a knee injury, although he just doesn't seem to be completely healthy based on his missing targets that he normally was a lock to hit. The Pats traded DT Richard Seymour to Oakland for the Raiders first round draft pick and while that was a great trade for New England, it left a hole in their trenches. Combined with the fact that NT Vince Wilfork may miss Sunday's game puts the Ravens in position to enjoy a huge advantage in the trenches on offense. The LB corps of the Pats has been hit hard with the retirement of Tedy Bruschi and the injury to Jerod Mayo, and without them the front seven's ability to slow down the Ravens rushing attack and put pressure on the QB is greatly diminished.
These issues lead me to believe that the Ravens offense will be able to move the ball and put points on the board against the Patriots defense. But in order to win this game, the key will be whether or not the Ravens defense can limit the New England offense enough to prevent them from scoring more than we do. The Ravens defense is basically the same, if not better than the one that almost upset the Pats in that classic 2007 game during their undefeated regular season (that game is on the NFL Network tonight). The Ravens were horrible that year and still almost pulled off the upset. If we can come close to playing with that same fervor, then we will have a shot to win in New England, where the Pats have the NFL's best home record since the 2000 season, just ahead of the Indianapolis Colts and our Baltimore Ravens.
Don't expect the Patriots running game to have any more success against the Ravens as the rest of the league has had this season, much less for the past 38 games where no one player has rushed for over 100 yards against this defense. Limiting Tom Brady and the Pats passing attack will obviously be the key to this game. Keep Randy Moss out of the end zone and do not let TE Ben Watson get behind our safeties and we should be fine. Wes Welker should play but he is not the TD threat that the other two are. Welker can move the chains though, and is the speed threat across the middle and has great hands. Most likely, I see the Ravens fastest DB, Fabian Washington on Welker and Domonique Foxworth covering Moss, with help from Ed Reed in back of him. Dawan Landry should match up against Watson, unless we are in a nickel, dime or dollar packages with more DB's out there to provide additional coverage. Of course, turnovers could play a huge part in deciding this game, as both teams have been opportunistic on defense in thus category.
I like the Ravens chances and while this is by far our toughest game so far, we came through with a tough road victory earlier this season against the San Diego Chargers, which was predicted by many to be a road loss for the Ravens. At the same time, in New England's toughest game so far, they failed to beat the New York Jets on the road, against the Ravens former defensive coordinator, whose defensive gameplan should be repeated by the Ravens this Sunday. If Baltimore executes like they have so far this season, there is no reason that we can't outmuscle the Patriots and emerge from week four still undefeated and remain atop the AFC North.